Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, former head of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, in a file photo from January.
U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, former head of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, in a file photo from January. Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images
Resurgent Taliban forces have mounted an offensive in Afghanistan in recent days.
Militants engaged NATO and Afghan troops Wednesday in heated gunbattles in the pomegranate groves of the Arghandab district northwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city. And nearly a week ago, militants stormed a Kandahar prison, freeing hundreds of Taliban fighters.
The former U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, said at a Defense Department briefing last week that Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan had increased by 50 percent in April from the same time last year. McNeill, who is retiring, spent 16 months at the head of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
He tells NPR's Robert Siegel in a conversation from Fort Bragg, N.C., that the "under-resourced" security forces fight to keep pressure on the Taliban fighters, who have sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
"It's a question of the wills that are involved in this," McNeill says. "By my reckoning, you have three distinct wills: the wills of the governments and people of Europe, the wills of the governments and peoples of North America and the will of the Afghan people. … For my money, the most resilient of the three groupings is likely the will of the Afghan people."
On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send troops into Pakistan to root out militants along the countries' shared border.
McNeill says he has seen progress, though Afghanistan's police and security forces need to be better prepared to fight Taliban forces inside Afghanistan. The presence of NATO troops, he says, will buy Afghans the time they need to train.
"They will have to take responsibility for their battle space and their own security," he says.
Also worrisome is the drug trade that flows through Afghanistan's porous borders to its six neighboring countries, says McNeill. "The insurgent gets a certain percentage of his fiscal resource from the illegal narcotics business."